Everything that has happened up until this instant is the past. The past is a cornucopia of events, decisions, and experiences that roll up together and form memories.
If you’re lucky, you have more good memories than bad ones but sometimes those same memories wrap around you so tightly that you can’t seem to squeeze anything else into your brain. They throw up a barrier so that nothing new dares to enter and they hold you hostage.
Memories can warm you up from the inside but they also tear you down.
But thinking affectionately about the past isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes you need those warm memories as a safe harbor because it’s familiar and it feels good but there has to be a clear-cut distinction between thinking about the past and living there.
Memories are not Reflections
There’s no time machine in life so you can’t go back. You’ll never be able to replicate past events so if you continue to live in the past, it steals from you.
The past deprives you of the opportunity to live something that’s better. It robs you of the opportunity to enjoy the present.
But, there is one thing to do with the past — and that’s reflect about it.
Educational reformer John Dewey said, “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”
A paper published in 2014 by Harvard Business Review, showed that Dewey’s thoughts were correct. The research showed that learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection — that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience. The study revealed reflection to be a powerful instrument behind learning.
What is Reflection?
Reflection is the practice that we deliberately undertake to gain understanding and to add meaning to our current life conditions. Reflection helps us learn important key aspects so we don’t live in a cycle of repetition of harmful events.
It’s is a process that begins with looking back on a situation, pondering it, learning from it and then using the new revelations to help you in future similar situations.
Reflection equals learning through experience, or what we also call life lessons.
It provides us with awareness and insight. If we reflect appropriately, it challenges even the most predictable cycles of behaviors. Knowing when to make critical adjustments when something is not working is crucial if we are trying to meet our goals.
If we can figure out what went wrong, we can stop making the same mistakes that prevent us from moving forward.
How Do You Start?
By asking the right questions.
Questions are powerful tools because they invoke great ideas, insights and discoveries. Questions reveal the most relevant – and sometimes unimagined – information you need.
Here are 12 questions that help jumpstart your reflection process. Answer them with brutal honesty if you want to critically evaluate your behavior so you can break the cycle of bad decisions.
- If you had to sum up this last year in a few sentences, what would that be?
- What experiences and successes did you have last year that you would most like to repeat this next year? Why?
- In what areas did you falter most often?
- Where have you seen an improvement in your life over the last year?
- What keeps you up at night worrying? What do you fear most?
- What is most important to you in your life and why?
- What’s going really well for you at the moment?
- What isn’t working well at the moment?
- What have you done so far to improve the things that aren’t working?
- What excuse(s) do you always use for not achieving your goals?
- What is the biggest obstacle that you are facing?
- How do you sabotage yourself?
Now that you’ve reflected upon the past couple of years, what will you do with it?
How will you learn from it?
You use it as a starting point to help you meet your goals in the future. After reflecting on the above questions, write down the top three lessons you’ve learned so far.
Now comprehend those lessons. How will use that knowledge to change what is not going well in your life?
Reflection helps us learn more about ourselves so that we go on to make better choices. Success comes with reflection and reflection puts life into perspective. The role of reflection is important to an individual emotional and experiential well-being.
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